Thursday, January 8, 2009

Concerning Public Worship and Concord

Rick at Light From Light quotes Luther's letter “A Christian Exhortation to the Livonians Concerning Public Worship and Concord,” in which Luther discusses uniformity in external worship practices. Here are a couple of the highlights from Rick's excellent post:
Now even though external rites and orders—such as masses, singing, reading, baptizing—add nothing to salvation, yet it is un-Christian to quarrel over such things and thereby to confuse the common people. We should consider the edification of the lay folk more important than our own ideas and opinions. Therefore, I pray all of you, my dear sirs, let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder—one thing being done here and another there—lest the common people get confused and discouraged.

...This I said to the preachers so that they may consider love and their obligation toward the people, dealing with the people not in faith’s freedom but in love’s submission and service, preserving the freedom of faith before God. Therefore, when you hold mass, sing and read uniformly, according to a common order—the same in one place as in another—because you see that the people want and need it and you wish to edify rather than confuse them. For you are there for their edification, as St. Paul says, “We have received authority not to destroy but to build up” [2 Cor. 10:8]. If for yourselves you have no need of such uniformity, thank God. But the people need it. And what are you but servants of the people, as St. Paul says, 2 Corinthians 2 [1:24], “We are not lords over your faith, but rather your servants for the sake of Jesus Christ.”


Kari said...


I've got a question on this. How can it say the baptizing adds nothing to salvation? I disagree. I mean baptism is the most special gift. Right? Is that quote correct, or am I misreading it?

haughty said...

1) But at the same time a preacher must watch and diligently instruct the people lest they take such uniform practices as divinely appointed and absolutely binding laws. He must explain that this is done for their own good so that the unity of Christian people may also find expression in externals which in themselves are irrelevant.

2) Luther sought to craft a service which promoted faith and did not deter it

The German Mass and Order of Worship - For the orders must serve for the promotion of faith and love and not be to the detriment of faith.

3) Luther craft services specific to the various sub-groups within the community of believers

Luther on the Reform of Worship

Although Luther introduced a German Mass in Wittenberg in
1525, he did not want to abolish the Latin Mass completely. For
there were in Wittenberg a Latin school and a large number of
students. Latin was the language of almost all the universities in
Europe. People who were familiar with Latin worship could speak
with people in other lands and thereby serve Christ.49
Furthermore, in the Wittenberg of 1525 there were still other
worship services designated for particular groups. Thus, at five or
six o’clock in the morning on Sundays there was a service of
preaching intended especially for the household servants.50 This
was necessary because the maids and menservants could not come
to a later worship service on account of their household chores.
Here the time for worship was accommodated to a particular group
so that they could hear the Word of God. Then, too, on weekday
mornings and evenings there were worship opportunities for the
school children.51
The worship offerings in Wittenberg in 1525 were thus extremely
varied. The receptivity of the worshipers was seriously
taken into consideration. Moreover, there were also differences
with respect to the texts. In the weekday services, parts of the
catechism were read and explained on Mondays and Tuesdays;
Wednesdays, selections related to love and good deeds from Matthew’s
Gospel; and Saturdays, selections from John’s Gospel, which
overwhelmingly taught faith.52

4) Paul encouraged flexibility in methodology ( not the watering down of doctrine)

1 Corinthians 9:20-22 (New International Version)

20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some

bible gateway
Hebrews 10:23-25 (New International Version)

23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Scott Diekmann said...

Haughty, Thanks for the excellent quotes.

Kari, The quote is accurate. We know that Luther viewed Holy Baptism as a means of grace and salvific, so his quote here certainly doesn’t mean he’s changed his mind. In the context of the whole topic of uniformity in worship, I believe he’s saying that the composition of the external ceremonies, whether you immerse or “sprinkle,” for instance, or whether you follow Divine Service 1 or 2, don’t add anything to salvation. Though the details are adiaphora, he recommends a common worship form where possible to avoid confusion from place to place.

The wording does seem somewhat confusing in this particular text. It would be nice to check the German, but I don’t speak German.